MAN Truck & Bus

“WoMAN Initiative” provides a female perspective on truck product development

Women are standing in front of a truck

7 Mar 2024

In the next part of the Workshop series, MAN investigates the needs of female drivers and feeds the findings into truck product development. All this will also help to make truck driving a more attractive career for women.

On this morning in mid-February, Munich is not really showing off its most inviting side. Drizzle and a leaden sky. Nevertheless, the four women gathered outside the factory gates of the MAN Truck & Bus production facility are all in a great mood. They are here to take part in the third part of the “WoMAN Workshop”. These female truck drivers form a kind of think tank, contributing ideas since 2022, to help MAN Truck & Bus to be more responsive to the needs of women. Up to now, the industry’s viewpoint has remained very one-sided, predominantly taking men’s needs and living environments into consideration in the development of trucks. The aim here is to counter this gender data gap.

Important input: female drivers contribute an important perspective to the development, emphasised MAN Chief Development Officer Dr Frederik Zohm.

Male and female drivers all do the same jobs, using the same hardware. For some time now, MAN Truck & Bus has been working to be more responsive to the needs of women. “Female drivers bring a different perspective to our product development and we can use these valuable findings to make our products even better, more comfortable and more user-friendly for male and female customers alike in the future,” said Dr. Frederik Zohm, Executive Board Member for Research and Development at MAN Truck & Bus as he welcomed them. “Unless you are happy with the vehicle that is your daily workplace, you can’t promote it to the outside world: I can do it with MAN.”

Female experts in the cockpit: Yvonne Mosandl (left) and Dr Sigrun Weise discuss how the driver's cab can be made more attractive for women.

The “WoMAN Initiative” reveals where details can make all the difference

For MAN, the focus is always on the driver, whether male or female, when developing new vehicles. The “WoMAN Initiative” is also seeking to learn more about the daily working life of female drivers and to take into account the differences between men and women. The aim is to design a vehicle that is more attractive to women too. “At the end of the day, a truck is a vehicle with 250 to 640 hp and at least two axles. To enable us to make a difference here, in these workshops we want to hear from you about what is important to you, from the interior to the way the truck drives,” emphasised Zohm. “That means that you could have a certain influence on future changes to our trucks.”

Numbers of women among the truck driver population are rising in Germany. The proportion of female HGV licence holders has recently increased by around two percent. It’s an upward trend, as figures from the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (Federal Motor Vehicle and Transport Authority) show. When it comes to professional truck driver training, the number of women has risen from four to eleven percent between 2011 and 2021. “With around 30,000 licenses issued to women in comparison with about a million for men, the scale is still very different. However, it does show that more and more women are choosing this career. What’s more, we can see that the voices of female drivers carry weight on social media. You are influencers,” said workshop leader Dr. Sigrun Weise, Senior User Experience Researcher at MAN Truck & Bus.

Think tank: The four female drivers in dialogue with experts from MAN and Chief Development Officer Dr Frederik Zohm.

Growing influence: More and more women like Ines Böttcher (left) and Yvonne Mosandl (centre) are opting for a job in a truck.

Male and female drivers are different

The “WoMAN Workshop” is just part of a series of internal studies of everyday working life and the differences between male and female truck drivers. In the summer of 2023, interviews were held with both male and female drivers during the Trucknology Festival at MAN and the Truck Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, supplemented by an online survey at the end of 2023.

These form the basis on which the MAN team from the Engineering and Design departments, headed by psychologist Dr Sigrun Weise, is working alongside MAN Market Research. On average, female drivers are seven years younger, eleven centimetres shorter and 18 kilograms lighter than their male colleagues. They are just as positive about physical effort as their male colleagues. “I don’t see myself purely as a driver. I enjoy having the opportunity to be physically active. And of course I chat to the people at the loading dock too,” says Christina Scheib, who is a strong advocate for the needs of female drivers. Professional truck driver Yvonne Mosandl, who transports shipping containers, confirms the observation that a few friendly words are all she needs to build a good relationship with customers and their employees.

Intensive Diskussion: Das MAN Team aus den Bereichen Engineering, Intensive discussion: The MAN team from the Engineering, Design and Market Research departments wants to determine the specific requirements of women for a truck.

Power woman with a sure instinct: Angelika Hirlimann brings cranes from A to B.

Women don’t want special treatment

The surveys conducted by MAN sought a deeper insight into the details of daily working life. “A lot of it is specialised knowledge. After all, we both work here and live here,” confirms professional truck driver Ines Böttcher, who has travelled specially from Switzerland. Details like this cover the preferred width of the beds, the question of whether there should be a sink or a toilet in the cab or the number of sockets in the truck so drivers can plug in their own appliances – and how a hairdryer or iron can be used in the truck cab. But it is also about the realisation that it shouldn’t be branded as a “girl’s truck” from miles away on the road. “We don’t want any special treatment, we do the job just as well as men”, states Angelika Hirlimann, who takes cranes from A to B and delicately assembles them at their destination. The women’s experiences also include dealing with coarse language in the workplace.

Work in progress: MAN wants to further investigate the everyday working lives of drivers using detailed questionnaires in order to optimise its products.

Further research needs to be done into the day-to-day working lives of truck drivers, both male and female, through more detailed questionnaires to identify possible differences between men and women. The findings can also help to incorporate their user requirements into vehicle development and to initiate further improvements. “I don’t know of any truck manufacturer with such an intense interest in the needs of their drivers as MAN Truck & Bus,” said Böttcher. Scheib added, “It would be a real wow factor for us female drivers if we could see in a few years’ time that our suggestions had been incorporated into truck development.”

Text: Anke Kotte

Photos: MAN